MRSA means Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria of the Staphylococcus aureus species are found on the skin and mucous membranes of many healthy people. These bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotic Methicillin and also become resistant to most other antibiotics, i.e., insensitive.
Most often, MRSA just settles on people without making them sick. The bacteria like to settle, for example, in the nasal vestibule, throat, armpits and groins. Only when these bacteria enter the body via wounds or through mucous membranes can an infection break out. Since MRSA is insensitive to many antibiotics (multiresistant), the disease can take a severe course.
MRSA occurs where antibiotics are frequently used, especially in hospitals. In Germany, about 20% of all Staphylococcus aureus bacteria tested in hospitals were multiresistant in earlier years. In recent years, there has been a decline in the incidence of MRSA.
How are MRSA transmitted?
From person to person
Most commonly, the pathogens are passed from person to person through direct contact. The main route of transmission is through the hands.
Both MRSA-infected as well as MRSA carriers, i.e. healthy people who are colonized with MRSA, can be infectious.
A MRSA carrier can also transfer the bacteria to other parts of the body, for example when the pathogens enter a wound from the nasal vestibule via the hands. There they can trigger a disease under certain circumstances.
Via contaminated objects
Infection is also possible via contaminated objects such as door handles, handrails, handles or bathroom utensils. The pathogens adhere very well to plastic materials and stainless steel alloys, such as catheters.
From animal to human
Also possible to infect humans after contact with colonized farm animals.
What signs of illness do infected persons have?
Many MRSA carriers, whose skin or mucous membranes are colonized have no complaints.
If a MRSA infection, it can show itself in different ways. Possible signs are:
- skin inflammations such as ulcers or pus accumulation
- Wound infections, especially after surgery
- Inflammation of individual organs, such as a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, or bloodstream infection (sepsis)
When does the disease break out and how long is one contagious?
MRSA do not have to cause disease. People who are colonized with MRSA can develop an illness when their immune system is weakened and the bacteria find a way into the body. The sick are contagious as long as the pathogen can be detected.
Who is particularly at risk?
For healthy people, the risk of infection is low, even if the skin or mucous membranes are already colonized with MRSA.
People with the following risk factors are more likely to be affected:
- Hospital patients and those in need of chronic care in retirement homes
- Dialysis patients, diabetics, people with weakened immune systems
- Patients with foreign bodies such as catheters, an opening of the trachea to the outside, joint replacements
- People with skin injuries like burns, chronic wounds
MRSA infections can be particularly severe in immunocompromised, elderly patients and infants.
What must I pay attention to in the event of an illness?
- A MRSA colonization of healthy people can disappear again by itself. Local treatment is also possible: in the nasal vestibule and on the colonized wounds with special ointments or on the skin with washing lotions. Discuss with your doctor whether such treatment is necessary in your case.
- If a MRSA colonization during a hospital stay MRSA carriers are isolated as long as the germ is detectable in nasal, skin or wound swabs. Carriers will be treated if necessary. Special hygiene measures are then also important to protect other patients from transmission. This includes wearing a mouth-nose protection when leaving the room and thorough hand hygiene. Hospital staff also wear protective gowns, headgear and gloves to avoid carrying the pathogen further. Visitors must also adhere to special hygiene rules. The environment of the sick person is disinfected daily.
- Although the pathogen is insensitive to many antibiotics, there are still so-called reserve antibiotics, with which a MRSA disease can usually still be treated effectively.
How can I protect myself??
When visiting the hospital:
- Most important: Always watch out for a careful hand hygiene!
- Disinfect your hands Before and after the visit with the disinfectant provided there.
- Most important: Always ensure careful hand hygiene!
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Wounds and skin injuries should be covered with clean bandages or plasters. Here’s how to protect yourself from infection and avoid spreading it to others. Clean hands thoroughly before and after a dressing change!
- Avoid close physical contact with people with open sores.
- Use only your own personal hygiene and bathroom items such as towels, washcloths or razors.
- Tell your treating nurses and doctors if you have had contact with people with MRSA. In this way, additional protective measures can be initiated if necessary.
Where can I get information?
Your local health department is available for further advice and information.